The German Bundesliga became the first top-flight European football league to resume its season with defending champions Bayern Munich retaining their lead at top of the table with a 2-0 away win over Union Berlin behind closed doors. Meanwhile, cycling’s Tour of Britain, due to take place in September, has been cancelled.
Here is our update on further cancellations, postponements, rescheduling and implications for the future of various sports as the world looks to see some light through the shadow cast by Covid-19 which has affected the staging of every major event.
In England. Premier League clubs will return to training on Tuesday after agreeing to allow “small group” sessions to begin. The league held a conference call for all 20 clubs today (Monday) where the move was given unanimous backing. It was the first step in the league’s ‘Project Restart’ plans to restart play in the league which has not held a game since 9 March. “Premier League Shareholders today voted unanimously to return to small group training from tomorrow (Tuesday) afternoon — the first step towards restarting the Premier League, when safe to do so,” the league said in a statement. “Step One of the Return to Training Protocol enables squads to train while maintaining social distancing. Contact training is not yet permitted,” it added. The league said the decision had been taken in consultation with players, managers, Premier League club doctors, independent experts and the Government. Sunday should have been the final day of the Premier League season but the league was suspended on 13 March with 92 fixtures remaining. There were hopes for a return to action on 12 June, with matches played behind closed doors. Liverpool are runaway leaders, 25 points ahead of defending champions Manchester City with a game in hand. In Scotland, Celtic were confirmed as Scottish champions for the ninth season in a row and Hearts have been relegated after the SPFL ended the season. The decision was taken at a board meeting on Monday after the 12 clubs agreed at the end of last week that completing the campaign was unfeasible. Average points per game played has been used to determine final placings. Celtic were leading arch rivals Rangers by 13 points.
In Germany, Bayern Munich comfortably beat Union Berlin 2-0 away from home on Sunday night to seal a four-point lead at the top of the Bundesliga. Prolific Polish striker Robert Lewandowski gave the defending champions the lead with a penalty – his 40th goal in 34 Bayern games this season – in a match played in a strange atmosphere behind closed doors without fans. Benjamin Pavard headed in a late second from Joshua Kimmich’s corner. In second place behind Bayern are Borussia Dortmund whose derby match against FC Schalke 04 on Saaturday ended with an easy 4-0 home win which featured another goal from Norwegian teenage prodigy Erling Braut Haaland.
In Spain, La Liga clubs are set to start group training on Monday as they step up a return to action in June. Players had to have coronavirus tests before recently resuming individual training with five players testing positive in Spain’s top two division. It is understood they will now be able to train in groups of no more than 10 from Monday. The next phase would be a return to full training before a possible La Liga restart behind closed doors on 12 June. Barcelona currently head the table, two points ahead of arch rivals, Real Madrid.
In Italy, Serie A players can resume full training from today (Monday), Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte said on Saturday, as part of a further easing of lockdown restrictions. Serie A has been suspended since 9 March and a date has not yet been set for the season to re-start, although players have returned to individual training while respecting social distancing rules. Conte confirmed that football clubs would return to training on Monday along with other sports teams but could not give any details about when Serie A would resume. Defending champions Juventus currently head the table, one point ahead of Lazio.
In France, the season has already been called off by the government with defending champions Paris Saint Germain awarded the Ligue 1 title ahead of Marseille. Lyon have said they would claim damages after being denied a European spot. Relegated Amiens and Toulouse have also threatened legal action.
In Belgium, Club Bruges have been declared Belgian champions after the country’s Pro League confirmed last month’s decision to bring the season to a premature halt. They had an unassailable 15-point lead over Gent with one match left when the season was suspended.
On the European stage, UEFA President Aleksander Cerefin said it had a concrete plan for finishing the European season in August with the final stages of the Champions League and Europa League likely to be played in that month. The quarter-finals and semi-finals are expected to be played over two legs. Cerefin told BeIN Sports: “As things look now, I’m sure that we can finish the European season and this means UEFA competition.” He said the games would have to be played without spectators but hoped the “majority” of domestic leagues would complete the season. Euro 2020, Europe’s flagship tournament, has already been posponted and would be held from 11 June to July 11, 2021.
Formula One and Silverstone have agreed terms for two races without spectators at the circuit this season, subject to government approval, the track’s managing director Stuart Pringle said last Friday. The British Grand Prix, a home race for Mercedes’ six times world champion Lewis Hamilton as well as seven of the 10 teams, is scheduled for 19 July but that could change as the sport redraws a ravaged calendar ravaged. Formula One is seeking to make up the numbers after three races, including this month’s traditional Monaco showcase, were cancelled and seven others postponed.. “We’re not talking dates because F1 are still trying to knit their calendar together and there seems to be a certain amount of flexibility,” Pringle told Reuters. He said both parties were happy with the agreement, without giving details. The British Grand Prix was the best attended race on the calendar last year, with 351,000 people over the three days and 141,000 on race Sunday. The races would be back-to-back at the circuit that is celebrating the 70th anniversary of hosting the first Formula One world championship race. Formula 1 chairman Chase Carey. Carey said earlier this month the goal remained to start the season in Austria on the first weekend in July, and that it was likely this would be followed by a second race at the Red Bull Ring the on 11-12 July. It would be followed by the two races at Silverstone, also without spectators. Carey said he believed it would be possible to have a championship of 15-18 races, and that the plan was for a series of European races through August and into September, before heading to Eurasia, Asia, the Americas and the Middle East, finishing on 13 December.
The British Superbike Championship round at Snetterton has become become the fourth of the season to be called off. The June meeting follows postponements at Silverstone, Oulton Park and Donington Park. “A new provisional BSB calendar has been drafted, taking into account the Government’s phased reopening of activities,” said organisers. Meanwhile motorcycling’s premier competition, the MotoGP, has proposed starting its season after months of delay with two races on consecutive weekends in July at the Jerez circuit in southern Spain. The regional government of Andalusia, the city council of Jerez and series promoters Dorna had agreed to make a proposal to the Spanish government. If approved, Jerez would host MotoGP grands prix on 19 and 26 July as well as a round of the world superbike championship on 2 August. The season-opening race would be designated the Spanish Grand Prix and the second the Grand Prix of Andalusia. The first 11 races in the 2020 season have been affected across Europe, Asia and Australia. In other motor sports, the 2020 Isle of Man Classic TT and Manx Grand Prix, scheduled from 22 August to 4 September, have been cancelled along with the 2020 North West 200 and Isle of Man TT international road races, the 2020 Ulster Grand Prix and the Munster 100, scheduled for June, and the Faugheen 50, scheduled for July. The Le Mans 24 hours race was postponed from 13-14 June to 19-20 September. The Indianapolis 500, one of the world’s biggest single-day sporting events with an estimated crowd topping 350,000, has been postponed until 23 August.
The International Olympic Committee (IOC) expects the postponement of the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games to cost the organisation US $800 million, US$150 million of which will form an “aid package” for the Olympic Movement. IOC President Thomas Bach announced the figure following a remote meeting of the ruling Executive Board late last week. The US $150 million has been set aside for International Federations (IFs) and National Olympic Committees (NOCs). Tokyo 2020 is now scheduled to run from 23 July to 8 August next year but health experts have also cast doubt on whether the Games could be held next summer without a vaccine or effective drugs to treat Covid-19. Next year’s Association of National Olympic Committees (ANOC) World Beach Games has been postponed until 2023 because of the coronavirus pandemic. ANOC said its Executive Council had decided not to stage the event as planned next year “to alleviate pressure on the National Olympic Committees (NOCs) and ensure they can focus on preparing their athletes for the rescheduled Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games and Beijing 2022 Winter Olympic Games”. The bidding process for the event, which had been opened alongside the 2023 edition in January, has also been pushed back to 2021
India captain Virat Kohli and his team will be open to playing the entire test series against Australia in a ‘bio-secure’ Adelaide Oval if the situation demands, a top official of the Indian cricket board told Reuters.IIndia are scheduled to play four tests and three one-day internationals in December and January on a tour reportedly worth A$300 million ($193.77 million) in broadcast revenue for Cricket Australia (CA). Australia vice captain Travis Head on Thursday backed the idea of playing the entire test series behind closed doors at Adelaide Oval, where an on-site hotel is under construction, to ensure it goes ahead amid restrictions forced by the COVID-19 pandemic. Of those tournaments cancelled or postponed, The Hundred. the England and Wales Cricket Board’s (ECB) new city-based tournament, will now take place next year. The 100-ball competition, involving eight teams in separate men’s and women’s tournaments, was due to begin on 17 July and end on 15 August. The ECB has extended the shutdown on cricket in England and Wales until at least 1 July. If and when the 2020 season does begin, the national governing body has already stated it will focus on delivering men’s and women’s internationals, as well as domestic first-class and limited-overs competitions, in the period between July and the end of September. However, it seems likely the majority of cricket would have to be played behind closed doors The 2020 Indian Premier League (IPL) has already been suspended “until further notice”.
The ATP Tour and International Tennis Federation (ITF) have extended their suspensions of professional tennis until 31 July due to the COVID-19 pandemic, they said on Friday. The ATP and WTA had announced in April that they were suspending all tournaments until July 13, with the WTA saying on Friday that it will next month provide an update on events scheduled for the latter half of July. ATP events in Hamburg, Bastad, Newport, Los Cabos, Gstaad, Umag, Atlanta and Kitzbuhel will not go ahead as scheduled while WTA events in Bastad, Lausanne, Bucharest and Jurmala scheduled for July will not be held. “Due to continued uncertainties surrounding the COVID-19 pandemic, we regret to announce our decision to extend the suspension of the Tour,” ATP Chairman Andrea Gaudenzi said in a statement. Wimbledon has already been cancelled and the French Open postponed from its usual May start to September, while the status of the U.S. Open, scheduled to take place in late August, is still unclear. The US Tennis Association will decide in June whether the US Open can go ahead in New York from 31 August.Top of Form The French Tennis Federation has switched the clay court French Open Grand Slam tournament from its May start to 20 September to 4 October. Of the four Grand Slam events, only the Australian Open has been held. The women’s Fed Cup finals scheduled in Budapest from 14-19 April were postponed.
Leading professional golfers based outside the United States must quarantine in America before resuming the PGA Tour season next month. This was confirmed as the PGA Tour outlined its plans for a return to action. There has been no play on the circuit since the abandonment of the Players Championship on 12 March. Around 25 players eligible to play the Charles Schwab Colonial event in Texas, which will be held between 11-14 June, are currently living outside the US. They need to adhere to American rules requiring 14 days’ quarantine after arriving in the country. The first four tournaments back are intended to be played behind closed doors. The events will be played in the absence of spectators but will be screened live by NBC in the U.S and on satellite television in the UK. Of the four majors, the 149th British Open Championship, due to take place in July at Royal St George’s in Kent, has been cancelled and 2020’s three other majors, all in the US, have been rescheduled. The Augusta Masters has been put back from April to 12-15 November, while the US PGA Championship is now slated for 6-9 August. The US Open, at Winged Foot, New York, is being moved from June to 17-20 September. The British Open will now be hosted by the same venue in Kent in 2021.In the women’s game, the Ladies Professional Golf Association (LPGA) is hoping to get the 2020 season underway with the Dow Great Lakes Bay Invitational from 15-18 July. The Women’s PGA Championship has been postponed from late June to 8-11October.
The English, Welsh, Scottish and Irish international tour matches in the southern hemisphere have been postponed with World Rugby planning to consult with various stakeholders, including clubs, before rearranging them later in the year. England were due to visit Japan – where Wales were to start at the end of next month – before travelling to New Zealand, Ireland had a series in Australia and Scotland were scheduled to face the World Cup holders, South Africa. Meanwhile, European rugby organisers hope to stage this season’s Champions and Challenge Cup finals on 16 and 17 October – if public health regulations allow. Rugby at all levels in Europe has been suspended since March because of the coronavirus pandemic. European Professional Club Rugby (EPCR) said it was “making every effort to conclude the knockout stages of the Champions Cup and Challenge Cup”. EPCR is also considering changes to next season’s Champions Cup. That includes the possibility of increasing the number of teams in Europe’s premier European competition from 20 to 24, with eight teams each from the Pro14, English Premiership and French Top 14. Matches could be played over eight weekends instead of the current nine. In Rugby League, the English Rugby Football League and Super League have postponed all fixtures indefinitely pending further review while the game’s premier competition, the National Rugby League (NRL) in Australia, has also shut down its season with plans to resume on 28 May with matches to be played behind closed doors.
The Tour of Britain, due to take place between 6-13 September, has been cancelled for 2020 while the Women’s Tour stage race in Britain and the Tour de Yorkshire have also been cancelled for 2020. Organisers say the 2021 Tour of Britain will be held between 5-12 September and use the route planned for 2020. The cancellation means Britain will not host any major stage races this year. It was announced by the UCI earlier this month that the Tour de France will now start on 29 August and end on 20 September, with the Giro d’Italia and Vuelta a Espana overlapping during October. Cycling’s three Grand Tour races will be part of a packed schedule across just over three months from 1 August. The Tour de France – pushed back from June – had been cast into doubt when the French government said it was “not sure” the country would be ready. The Giro d’Italia will run from 3-25 October, and the Vuelta from 20 October to 8 November, which means two of the biggest races of the season will run concurrently. The UCI schedule will see Milan-Sanremo held on 8 August, Liege-Bastogne-Liege on 4 October, the Tour des Flandres on 18 October, Paris-Roubaix on 25 October and the Tour of Lombardy on 31 October. Meanwhile, the European Road Cycling Championships in Italy this September have been postponed by a year.
The Anniversary Games in London have been cancelled, UK Athletics confirmed. London Stadium had been scheduled to host the event – also part of the Diamond League season – on 4-5 July. Meanwhile, the Diamond League season will now run between August and October. The shortened calendar – which includes the meet in Gateshead on 16 August – and varying training facilities and opportunities for athletes means the points system has also been revised. Athletes will not earn points this season and there will not be a single, 24-discipline final in Zurich as originally planned. Along with the London Diamond League event, Rabat and Zurich have also been cancelled. The cancellations follow those of the 2020 European Athletics Championships in Paris, due to be staged at the Charlety Stadium from 25-30 August and the World Athletics Championships scheduled for 2021 in Eugene, Oregon, which have been moved to the summer of 2022 because of the Olympic Games rescheduling. The World Athletics Indoor Championships to be held in Nanjing in March will now be held from 19-21 March, 2021. The British Athletics Championships, due to take place on 20-21 June, have been rescheduled for 8-9 August..The Paris and Barcelona marathons have been called off, the London Marathon has been postponed till 4 October, the Boston Marathon has been put back from 20 April to 14 September.
Major League Soccer (MLS) has extended the moratorium on matches until at least 8 June. League play has been suspended since 12 March. The NBA and the NHL have suspended their seasons while early last week Major League Baseball (MLB) owners approved a plan that could start the season around 4 July in ballparks without fans. The NBA have approved the reopening practice facilities for individual training in states where local restrictions have been eased and under strict guidelines. The NFL season will begin on 10 September with a game between Super Bowl champions Kansas City Chiefs and Houston Texans.
British boxing chiefs are braced for promoters going out of business because of the coronavirus pandemic. The sport is shut down in the UK until July, when it is hoped a return can be fashioned at behind-closed-door events. The British Boxing Board of Control (BBBofC) said it has concerns for promoters who deliver shows without television revenue and expects casualties. The impact of the virus on the sport has prompted widespread cancellations and postponements. The BBBofC is currently in dialogue with promoters over a July return but strict measures would need to be in place, including a ban on fans. Among postponements is the world heavyweight title contest between Briton Anthony Joshua and the IBF’s mandatory challenger Kubrat Pulev of Bulgaria which was originally scheduled for 20 June. The 30-year-old Joshua reclaimed the WBA, WBO and IBF belts with a unanimous points win over Andy Ruiz Jr in December.
Horse racing will return to Ireland behind closed doors next month with the Irish 2,000 and 1,000 Guineas to be staged at the Curragh on 12-13 June 12-13. The first Irish race since the coronavirus shutdown of world sport will be on the flat at Punchestown on 8 June 8. The Irish Derby retains its traditional date on 27 June 27 with the Irish Oaks on July 18. Ireland’s resumption follows the return of racing in France with a 10-race fixture at Paris Longchamp, behind closed doors on 11 May. In Britain, Newcastle racecourse will host the first fixture under plans for British horse racing’s return behind closed doors next month. If a return to action is approved by the government, the first meeting would be held on 1 June. The British Horseracing Authority is proposing a total of 18 meetings in the first eight days after it resumes. Details of safety and social distancing protocols are being finalised. An eight-race opening fixture is planned for Newcastle’s all-weather track. Flat racing’s first two Classics, the 2,000 Guineas and 1,000 Guineas, would be held at Newmarket on 6 and 7 June. The United States, Australia, Japan and Hong Kong have continued to stage race meetings behind closed doors in recent weeks.
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